A Visitor’s Guide to Austin Neighborhoods

Downtown – downtown lies on the north side of the Colorado River and Town Lake. It is home to the State Capitol and related state government buildings, most of Austin’s major museums, plus hotspots packed with vibrant bars, live-music joints, and restaurants. Sixth Street is ground zero for Austin’s live music scene and a has a plethora of entertainment options. The street is often blocked to vehicular traffic on the weekends. The more upscale and trendy Warehouse District (2nd to 5th Streets just west of Congress) offers more bars and restaurants.

South Austin (SoCo and South Lamar) – the territory south of the river has lots to offer. Head down South Congress and cross the bat bridge (where thousands of bats depart at sundown), and things quickly turn laid back and funky as you enter SoCo. The strip of South Congress is full of restaurants and food trucks and lots of live music venues, plus unique shops full of antiques, retro consignment items, vintage clothing, folk art, and nostalgic toys and candy. West of South Congress lies South Lamar, which is a little more upscale than SoCo and is home to some of Austin’s most-acclaimed restaurants. West of Lamar lies the sprawling Zilker Park, the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and the famous Barton Springs Pool.

University Area/The Drag – UT features a pretty campus and is the home of the Blanton Museum of Art, the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum, and the Harry Ransom Center, which holds in its collection one of the original Guttenberg Bibles. The Drag is a commercial strip of Guadalupe Street that borders the western edge of the University of Texas and has traditionally catered to the college audience. It is home to numerous record stores, vintage clothes boutiques, live-music venues, indie video shops, and the artisan vendors at the open-air Renaissance Market. The area has fallen a bit on hard times lately, so beware of panhandlers.

Central East Austin – the area lies between 12th Street and TownPark Lake east of I-35 and is transforming from a mainly Hispanic neighborhood to a hip place to be – as a matter of fact, it was recently named to the Huffington Post’s “Top 10 Hipster Neighborhood” list. It boasts some of the best Tex-Mex dining in the city, a burgeoning arts district, and a good number of piñata stores.

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